Are You at Risk?

The most significant preventable risk factor for developing skin cancer is exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun or from artificial tanning beds.

People at higher risk of skin cancer are:

  • People with fair skin or freckly skin, with blond or red hair, and with
    light-coloured eyes.
  • People who tan poorly and burn easily.
  • People who have had sunburns, particularly during childhood and adolescence.
  • People with lots of moles.
  • People who spend a lot of time outdoors (e.g. outdoor workers).
  • People with a past history of skin cancer.
  • People with a family history of skin cancer.
  • People who take medication that makes them more sensitive to the sun.
  • People who use tanning beds.1, 2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13


1. Dennis LK, VanBeek MJ, Beane Freeman LE, Smith BJ, Dawson DV, Coughlin JA. Sunburns and risk of cutaneous melanoma: does age matter? A comprehensive meta-analysis. Ann Epidemiol 2008;18:614-27.

2. Gandini S, Sera F, Cattaruzza MS, Pasquini P, Picconi O, Boyle P, Melchi CF. Meta-analysis of risk factors for cutaneous melanoma: II. Sun exposure. Eur J Cancer. 2005 Jan;41(1):45-60.

3. Whiteman DC, Whiteman CA, Green AC. Childhood sun exposure as a risk factor for melanoma: a systematic review of epidemiologic studies. Cancer Causes Control. 2001; 12(1): 69-82.

4. Marcil I, Stern RS. Risk of developing a subsequent non-melanoma skin cancer in patients with a history of non-melanoma skin cancer: a critical review of the literature and meta-analysis. Arch Dermatol. 2000; 136(12): 1524.

5. Kruger H, Williams D. Burden of Malignancy after a Primary Skin Cancer: recurrence, multiple skin cancers and second primary cancers. Can J Public Health 2010;101(4):I23-I27.

6. Goldstein AM, Tucker MA. Genetic epidemiology of familial melanoma. Dermatologic Clinics. 1995; 35: 605-12.

7. Cust A, Armstrong B, Goumas C, Jenkins M, Schmid H, Hopper J, et al. Sunbed use during adolescence and early adulthood is associated with increased risk of early-onset melanoma. Int. J. Cancer. 2011: 128, 2425-2435.

8. Gandini S, Sera F, Cattaruzza MS et al.  Meta analysis of risk factors for cutaneous melanoma:III. Family history, actinic damage and phenotypic factors. Eur J Cancer. 2005b;41:2040-2059.

9. Karagas MR, Stukel TA, Umland V, Tsoukas MM, Mott LA, Sorensen HT, Jensen AO, Nelson HH, Spencer SK, Perry AE, Stern RS. Reported use of photosensitizing medications and basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma of the skin: results of a population-based case-control study. J Invest Dermatol. 2007 Dec;127(12):2901-3. Epub 2007 Jun 28.

10. Kaae J, Boyd HA, Hansen AV, Wulf HC, Wohlfahrt J, Melbye M. Photosensitizing medication use and risk of skin cancer. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2010 Nov;19(11):2942-9. Epub 2010 Sep 22.

11. Olsen C, Carroll H, Whiteman D. Familial Melanoma: A Meta-analysis and Estimates of Attributable Fraction. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2010; 41:19(1):65.

12. Veierod M, Adami HO, Lund E, Armstrong B, Weiderpass E. Sun and Solarium Exposure and Melanoma Risk: Effects of Age, Pigmentary Characteristics, and Nevi. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2010; 19(1):111.

13. Boniol M, Autier P, Boyle P, Gandini S. Cutaneous melanoma attributable to sunbed use: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ 2012; 345: e4757